Thursday, May 29, 2008

Catching up

Word from Beertown (the Brewers Association) is that SAVOR, that craft beer plus fine food event, was a hit, a sellout over its two-day (May 16-17) run in the nation’s capital.

That’s 2,100 beer enthusiasts over three sessions. Friend of the blog John Holl, a brethren from our journalism days, filed this for The Star-Ledger of Newark.

SAVOR isn’t really breaking new ground here, as far as beer being a dinner guest goes. But it does keep a porch light on for the wider realization that beer and food, à la fine cuisine, aren’t just a winning combination, but a natural one.

That’s another way of saying if you haven’t noticed beer shedding its plebeian image, you’ve probably been watching Beerfest over and over.

It almost makes you wonder why beer has that image to shed in the first place. Well, maybe not when you remember Coors created a bottle label that turns blue to signal the beer’s cold and ready to drink. Then you recall how dumbed-down gimmickry imposed upon the public can steer the car into a ditch.

But make no mistake, beer’s roots include the supper table. Historically speaking, in the days before folks got a good handle on bacteria, beer was relied upon as a potable beverage, while drinking water was a gamble. So talk of beer at the dinner table is just beer reclaiming what belongs to it.

Speaking of beer and food, here’s one fans of organic foods and locally grown/locally served community sustainable farming will be interested in: The Ship Inn (Milford, Hunterdon County) is committed to that philosophy in a big way.

We caught up with brewer Tim Hall on an unrelated topic, but the subject came up in our discussion. Tim says the pub composts discarded vegetable matter, while spent grain from its brewery, which now goes to a local farmer, likely will wind up in the compost, too. The pub’s thinking is to avail that compost to local produce growers who supply the Ship Inn.

The Ship, known for its British-slant on atmosphere and ales, has organic foods on its menu and takes a novel approach toward beer-to-go with its beer a box (think of it as a cardboard growler, although the Ship still offers the glass version, too.) But here’s something else about the pub that commands attention – session beers.

That’s hardly going to get Wolf Blitzer Situation Room treatment, a brewpub standing session beers on the bar. But when you consider the unyielding grip of the big beer trend – heavy on hops, high in alcohol – the Ship’s session ales are a welcome step back in time.

Nearly all their ales are under 5% ABV, with three in the range of 3.5-4% ABV. Their IPA – which puts more emphasis on India pale ales’ tradition for hop aromatics and less on bitterness – is the highest at 5.5%. But even that’s fairly light in the face of the 7% beers that are as nearly ubiquitous as iPods now.

The Ship's beers invite drinking and conversation, and prove flavor is not sacrificed when the ABV is comes back down to earth.

Happy landing.